April 30, 2014
Why do 546 People own 52% of the Entire Western US?
April 30, 2014. When we think of the US federal government, we imagine the tens of millions of government employees and the tens of millions of private contractors it employs. But the reality is, the federal government was limited by the US Constitution to 546 individuals. They include the President, Vice President, Congress and the Supreme Court. The question is, why do those 546 people own more than half the entire western US land mass?
The federal government in Washington DC owns more than 52% of the entire western American land mass. Image courtesy of the US Bureau of Land Management.
Your author has been saying for two decades that the easiest and fastest way to end homelessness and reverse a three-decade national economic decline is to hold a government land lottery and give an acre away free to every single man, woman and child in America. The government has more than 500 million acres of land to do it with and it wouldn’t be the first time that the US has done similar land give-aways to its citizens. We’ll just have to try not to give away another nation’s land, like the American Indian’s this time.
52% of entire western US owned by US federal government
The map above is staggering. Who knew that the politicians in Washington had accumulated that much land ownership. Granted, some of it includes nuclear missile sites or deadly, radiated testing grounds. But the vast majority of it is completely habitable, including the 81-87% of the state of Nevada that the feds currently own (the exact percentage is debated). The US government owns a higher percentage of that state than any other in the nation.
And take a look at your author’s home town of Chicago, in the NE corner of Illinois, up against the SW bottom tip of Lake Michigan. Seen any red indicating federal land ownership? No. Guess what, the federal government owns a ton of land in the Windy City and the surrounding suburbs, including entire office buildings, woodlands, empty warehouses, and even a portion of O’Hare International Airport. The total value of federal land holdings in Cook County alone is probably in the multi-billions.
As detailed by a Washington Post special report last October, 13 western states are the hardest hit when it comes to the federal government owning their land from thousands of miles away in Washington DC. 93% of all US federal government land holdings are in those 13 states, led by Nevada. Coming in second according to the research is Utah, with 66% of that state owned by the federal government.
We want our land back
Recently, grassroots activists and even some state legislatures have begun fighting to get their land back from Washington. According to the report, ‘Legislatures in seven western states have passed, introduced, or explored legislation demanding that the federal government turn over millions of acres of federal public lands to the states.’ Those seven states are Utah, Arizona, Wyoming, New Mexico, Colorado, Nevada, and Idaho.
One politician who always seems to be a decade or two ahead of the curve is Ron Paul. While campaigning in Nevada during the 2012 Republican Presidential primary, the then Texas Congressman scored major political points with local voters when he repeatedly called on the federal government to get out of the land ownership business. The libertarian-Republican has long advocated a position that the federal government shouldn’t own any land at all.
While on the campaign stump, Paul said he supports abolishing the Department of the Interior and taking back the more than 500,000,000 acres of land it owns, including the roughly 400 national parks. The issue was even more well received when Ron Paul told Nevada residents that his plan would bar the federal government from turning the state into the country’s official nuclear waste dump, a program that has been pushed from Washington for decades.
As reported by Think Progress during the 2012 campaign stop, Ron Paul told media outlets and gathered voters, “I want as much federal land to be turned over to the state as possible…I very early on opposed the dumping of nuclear waste in Nevada, so I want the state to make the decision.” Paul supports this author’s idea, albeit with a more Republican spin to it. He’s suggested in the past that federal lands be turned over to the states and then sold off to regular individuals, businesses, corporations, speculators and investors. Personally, we like the idea of giving it away to everyone, like a ‘reverse flat-tax’.
Government’s flawed rationale
The progressive publication went on to argue why the vast land ownership by the federal government is a good thing and should not be tampered with. They even provided a statistic seemingly meant to reassure Nevada residents that they’re being well-paid by Washington for its ownership of the state’s land. But from any Nevadan’s point of view, the statistics seem to prove the opposite.
‘Our federal public lands are important assets for many reasons,’ the Think Progress report reads, ‘Interior Department lands alone provided $363 billion in economic activity in 2010, some of which goes to states and counties. Indeed federal lands in Nevada pumped $1 billion into the state’s economy in 2010.’ If I’m a Nevada resident, I want my full $12 billion, or $10 billion or whatever the overall take is, not just the $1 billion Washington gives back from it. So, for taking ownership of 81-87% of the state, Washington allows Nevada to keep $1 billion. No wonder they want their land back.
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